Friday, January 15, 2016

Six Wheels Down and Rollin'

Initially, we had hoped to be on the road by mid-August, but before we knew it, we were into the month of September. Everything seemed like it was taking much longer than anticipated, and time was slipping away from us. Before long, it would be getting into the colder months with below freezing temperatures, and we did not want to spend another winter with the possibility of ice and/or snow in Arkansas where there are many hills and curves common to the Ozarks. At this point, we knew we would head south to avoid freezing temperatures, but we had no idea how many bugs, if any, might need to be worked out. We still had a lot to do, so we decided to give ourselves a break and do a maiden voyage to work out any bugs.

Wanting to visit my sister before we left, we decided it would be a good idea to take our maiden voyage to see her, which meant we had to head north. Good thing we did! Having concluded that getting rid of the house and traveling full time would allow me more opportunity to spend more quality time with my sister than if we continued to tie ourselves down to the house all of the time, we finally left on Saturday, September 11.

Our first night out was in Marshall, Illinois. We had been offered a place to park for the night by a fellow blogger, but that region had so much rain, that his parking area was already saturated from all of the rain. We had no choice but to spend that first night in the Walmart parking lot.

Overall, about two years went in to designing the layout and converting the cargo trailer to make it livable for the two of us and our dog, Angel. Details, including photos, of the transformation of our toy hauler type of cargo trailer into our full-time RV for full-time living and traveling, can be found at John has documented the process with many details, photos, and also links to products if anyone is looking for items like we purchased.

What bugs had to be addressed in the Maiden Voyage?

The first problem we had involved the safety chains which were not high enough off the ground to keep from dragging on the pavement. It was necessary to find a facility who could install airbags on the van to solve this problem. When we made a trip into Michigan to pick up six windows that John later installed in the trailer while we were visiting my sister, we encountered the second problem. When we left the window place, the van was making a strange sound. We later found that the transmission had to be replaced. The third problem was a 33-year-old Port-a-Potty that sprung a leak when using the bellows to pump water into the bowl.

Fortunately, we were able to find a trailer place to install the air bags, a transmission place to install a new transmission, and order a new Thetford Curve Port-a-Potty to replace the old one with the leak. The Thetford Curve is designed to be higher off of the floor and makes it more user friendly. It is 17 inches high and ADA compatible.

Fun Stuff with my Sis

I always enjoy spending time with my Sis. One afternoon we took a pleasant, scenic drive along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan. It is possible to see the Chicago skyline across the lake in the distance, but not in this photo.

Rounding the curve at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Another highlight was viewing one of the Quilt Gardens in our old stomping ground along the Heritage Trail. Several years ago, we drove part of the Heritage Trail and viewed some other Quilt Gardens along the trail. This year, we saw Oma’s Blumen Garten (German for grandmother’s flower garden) at Nappanee Center in Indiana.

Sign at the eighth garden on this nationally renown tour.
Each sign shows the design on the left with the color-coding in the squares to the right identifying the flowers used.
This quilt garden identified with the traditional Amish garden, complete with garden produce, water pump and bucket, and a bench at the lower left for resting and viewing. 
We viewed it from a raised wooden platform.
Garden produce and water running from the old pump.
Concrete pavers were patterned with rhubarb leaves.
We also enjoyed a nice sunny, Sunday afternoon getting together in the back yard with family and friends. It was great to see and visit with cousins on both sides of the family as well as many friends.

One day we went to Elkhart, Indiana.  We visited Ron, my former boss whom I worked with for nearly twenty years at Miles Laboratories; that’s been over thirty years ago.  It was fun to reminisce and catch up. We always remark how wonderful it is that we have kept in touch all of these years. He took us to a very nice Thai Restaurant for lunch.

That same day, we met Rose at the Cracker Barrel near the Indiana Toll Road entrance, and visited way past sundown.  We have many fond memories of camping activities with friends, Bev and Warren and Faye and Woody, and Rose and her husband, John, when they were park managers at Rogers Lake Resort in Dowagiac, Michigan.    

Heading back to Arkansas

On the drive back to Arkansas, we stayed out two nights. Traveling south on Indiana 41 was beautiful and sunny and the best part was we did not have the traffic on this four-lane divided highway that we would have had on I-65.

Wind farms North of Attica and East of I-65
The first night we stayed at Marshall, Illinois. The ground was now dry enough so we could park there without fear of getting stuck.

Having been raised on a farm, it was nice to see the road curve between two cornfields on our drive to our night destination.

It was warm enough that we enjoyed visiting around a campfire until the sun went down.
Sunset in Marshall, Illinois
Where we have lived, a sunset is not always that easy to capture, so this sunset was better than most I could get at home.

Hamilton County State Fish and Wildlife Area

The last night of our maiden voyage we camped at the Hamilton County State Fish and Wildlife Area campground in Illinois.  It was great to get out and stretch our legs as we walked around the area. The camp hosts were very friendly and the fee there was $20 for the night.
Hamilton County State Fish and Wildlife Area

Hurrah! We survived our maiden voyage and arrived back in Arkansas around October 2nd. From this point on, we never moved back into the house because living in the trailer made it easier to continue to pack and prepare for RV full-time living and traveling.  We still had a lot to do to finally get on the road as full-time travelers. For one thing, we still had one room to sort, and the house was not yet listed for sale.

More progress will be addressed in the next post. If you want to follow our adventures and be notified of new posts, you can subscribe by email or one of three other methods. Your comments are welcome.

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